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Why I sleep soundly in my cot

By Jason Chaffetz, Special to CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he feels good about making the case for fiscal conservatism
  • He says he lacked seniority but was able to introduce bills and make his case
  • Chaffetz: Voters are looking for new voices who are credible on the issue of cutting spending
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Editor's note: Rep. Jason Chaffetz , a Republican, represents the 3rd District of Utah in Congress and is appearing in CNN.com's "Freshman Year " series, along with Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado.

Washington (CNN) -- Some say seniority is everything in Washington. And I have none. In 2008, I asked the voters of Utah to trade in 12 years of seniority to take a chance on someone new. It was a hard sell.

Five weeks before the state convention, a poll released in a local newspaper showed me with 4 percent of the vote. And that was the good news. The bad news: the margin of error was +/- 7.5 percent!

But I believed then, as I do now, that seniority matters a whole lot less than voting right, communicating well and working hard. My first year in Congress has more than proven the point.

It doesn't take a lot of seniority to vote the way you promised to vote. I campaigned on a promise to address unprecedented debt and spending levels. Although the 111th Congress has done tremendous damage to our country on these issues, my conscience is clear. I sleep surprisingly well on my cot knowing I voted exactly the way I promised I would vote.

In the effort to communicate with the American people, I found my lack of experience actually helped more than it hurt. In a year when populist anger was surging over the financial meltdown, voters looked to new people for a credible voice.

Democrats have continued to pursue expensive and irresponsible solutions to our problems. Many Republicans who supported irresponsible spending during the Bush Administration could not be taken seriously. But a freshman Congressman -- one who had to defeat a member of his own party over these very issues -- could speak credibly about the fiscal problems that keep Americans awake at night.

If someone had told me I would be on a national news channel even twice during my first year, I would have been thrilled. But even as a lowly freshman Republican, I've been given dozens of opportunities to share my message with national audiences. CNN has given me a platform to share my experiences. My Web site, YouTube Channel and Facebook page have exposed me to thousands of voters who share my concerns. My lack of seniority has not impeded my ability to communicate in any way.

As for the hard work, that has been the easy part. From the time I roll out of the cot at 6 a.m. to the time I fall asleep after midnight, I get to do what I love nonstop. I don't mind the hours. I'm working for the people of Utah and I have their full support. I sponsored or co-sponsored more than 200 bills my first year.

When I got home for Christmas, I realized it had been four months since I'd spent more than four consecutive days at home. The schedule can be brutal, but the battle is worth winning. We still have a lot to do. But in order to do it, I'm going to need many more people by my side -- people who, like me, have little or no seniority.

I didn't make this mess, but I came here to help clean it up. And I'm just getting started. Last month, I introduced a Congressional Action Plan for the 112th Congress. It is my hope that Republican candidates across the country will sign on to support these concrete solutions and change the way we do business in Washington. Already, other candidates running for Congress have signed the pledge at www.jasonforcongress.com/americandreamcontract to join me in my efforts.

If we're going to win this battle over fiscal responsibility, we need more of the people who vote right and fewer of those whose seniority is their only selling point. My faith is in the American people to make that happen in November 2010.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Chaffetz.